The Bellator 292 event held on March 11th, 2023, was one for the books as Usman Nurmagomedov defended his lightweight title against veteran fighter Benson Henderson, retiring him in the first round with a powerful finish and extending his win streak to 17-0.
The crowd was electric with anticipation as the two fighters made their way to the cage. Nurmagomedov, the cousin of the legendary Khabib Nurmagomedov, had already made a name for himself in the MMA world with an undefeated record. Henderson, on the other hand, had a wealth of experience with a record of 30 wins and 11 losses. It was a battle of the new generation versus the old guard.
Henderson was knocked out of the fight early on by a head blow from Nurmagomedov. Usman then made his way up and began to pelt the ground with blow after blow. Amazingly, Bendo continued to move to escape being struck, but Nurmagomedov was lying flat on his back. Usman expertly positioned a rear-naked choke, trapping Henderson on the ground and forcing the submission.
Following his victory, Nurmagomedov advances to the semi-final round against the winner of a Bellator 295 bout between Mansour Barnaoui and Brent Primus in May.
Henderson gave an inside-the-cage statement to commentator John McCarthy following the bout in which he made his decision to retire. Henderson, who already had two more fights left under his Bellator agreement, claimed that before agreeing to the deal, he promised himself that if he failed, he would give up fighting. He fulfilled his commitment on Friday and is now concentrating on his wife, Maria, who is about to start her own MMA odyssey.
Among the most accomplished lightweights of his time, Henderson earned two championships in the UFC and WEC throughout his 17-year MMA career, including victories over Frankie Edgar (2 times), Nate Diaz, Gilbert Melendez, Donald Cerrone (2 times), Jorge Masvidal, Josh Thomson, and many others.
“These last four fights I signed with Bellator, I told myself that if I lose at all any of these last four fights, then it’s about that time,” said an emotional Henderson.
“I’ve had a nice, long run. I’ve done a lot of great things and was able to do a lot of amazing accomplishments and thank you to everybody around the world. Thank you, guys, for your love and support, I appreciate that.”
For Henderson, the loss was a bitter pill to swallow. Despite his years of experience, he was unable to overcome the younger, faster Nurmagomedov. However, he can still hold his head high knowing that he gave his all to this sport.
The retirement of Henderson after the fight added to the emotional drama of the event. A former WEC and UFC champion, Henderson has been a fan favorite for years, and his presence in the sport will be missed. But as one chapter ends, another begins, and the rise of fighters like Nurmagomedov ensures that the future of MMA is in good hands.